Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Josef Korbel School of International Studies

First Advisor

Rachel A. Epstein

Second Advisor

Deborah D. Avant

Third Advisor

Timothy D. Sisk


Civil-military relations, Organizational culture, Severe polarization


Why does severe polarization result in military intervention in some cases but not others? I argue that the organizational culture unique to a particular military plays a critical role in influencing behavioral outcomes in severely polarized democracies. When faced with sovereign power disputes that arise as a result of severe polarization, military organizations are most likely to develop new strategies of action from the dominant practices, norms, and ideas of military leaders. Severe polarization presents a unique threat to civil-military relations and provides the type of unsettled social periods in which cultural ideologies express an observable influence on military behavior. My project takes a theory building approach and uses critical juncture analysis and process tracing to examine severe polarization in three cases: the United States, Venezuela, and South Africa. I find that in each case a common pathway exists in which severe polarization incentivizes civilian elites to attempt to co-opt the military for partisan gain and results in the politicization of the military. As democratic conditions deteriorate, continued severe polarization erodes many of the structural and rational interest-based mechanisms used for constraining military behavior in democracies. Absent these controls, organizational culture is a critical factor in shaping the collective perception of the military and enabling the problem-solving pathways that are available during contentious periods. In other words, severe polarization creates the conditions in which organizational culture exerts an overt influence on military behavior. The unique organizational cultures of each military, and specifically the cultural role beliefs that define the military’s relationship with the state, explain the variation in outcome. In the United States, the military played the role of arbiter at the end of the Trump administration. The South African Defense Force chose to remain neutral amid the end of apartheid and the transition to democracy and the Venezuelan military intervened and attempted to depose the president.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Timothy W. Ford


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


470 pgs

File Size

2.7 MB


Political science, Military studies